Maui Post-Fire Community Drinking-Water Information Hub

This page is maintained by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Water Resources Research Center (WRRC) in partnership with University of Hawaiʻi Maui College (UHMC) and the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources as a community information resource and hub to other relevant sources of information. It will be updated as frequently as possible to serve the rapidly changing needs of our community. While this page is not associated with the County of Maui Department of Water Supply (DWS) or the Hawaiʻi Department of Health (DOH), we are informed by these agencies and hope that our efforts support their important work. 

Wildfires can damage buried drinking water systems, building plumbing, catchment systems, and private drinking water wells making them unsafe to use. This knowledge, which comes from research carried out on similar major urban-wildfire incidents, is the reason why the Lāhainā and Kula water systems were put under a Do-Not-Use Advisory by Maui DWS. While it is important to heed this advisory, many residents have come to us with questions and clarifications about the advisory and how to best keep their families safe. We hope this page helps inform our community as we navigate through these challenging times together.

 

Disclaimer: This page aims to provide the most current and reliable information available, but we cannot be held liable for its accuracy nor can we vouch for the safety of the water for drinking purposes. Our main goal is to centralize Maui water information in response to a community need. 

If you have any questions, contact: infowrrc@hawaii.edu

VOC Water Sample Results from WRRC Testing

There are two main ways to access all water sampling results. Click on the map to the left to open an interactive map viewer where the results for each sample can be accessed by clicking on individual points. Where multiple samples are in close proximity, zoom in to see and click on individual points. Note that location data was anonymized for resident's privacy by moving points a random distance from the actual sample location.

Additionally, the links below will send you to a list of PDF's, you can click on them individually to open. Each PDF represents one sample at one location. An explanation of how to read the PDF's is posted here. The locations can be inferred as each sample is labeled with the street name, but the address numbers are omitted for resident's privacy.

 Click for Kula Results in list format

Click for Lahaina Results in list format

Maui Community Water Sampling Requests

The University of Hawaiʻi Water Resources Research Center (UH-WRRC) is partnering with teams at UH Maui College to set up a home tap-water sampling program, which will provide free non-regulatory water quality testing for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to residents in affected areas. 

It is important to know that these tests will NOT show if water is safe for use DWS and DOH are also conducting regulatory level VOCs tests to determine if water is safe for use. Instead, WRRC tests will produce research quality, screening-level data that can be used by homeowners,  DOH, and DWS to target regulatory level testing and to produce data that can expand our understanding of our water quality at a community level.

If VOC detections above regulatory limits are found data will be shared with DWS and DOH to aid in their regulatory-level testing efforts.  Data generated by these tests will be made available to individual homeowners, and will be released on this web-page in a way that protects personal information. 

If you are interested in having your home water tested please fill out this form bit.ly/3YHzheL or scan the QR code. We will work to get back to you as soon as we can with more information. 

Maui county has posted an official

County Water and Wastewater Information Page

They include updates, links, and FAQs, too.
(Click link above to access)

While we will continue to post updates and FAQs to our information hub, we recommend accessing the official county site for up to date information, and if you have questions or would like to share updates that are not available there, please contact us directly at infowrrc@hawaii.com and we will continue to do our best to fill the gaps through our hub.

 

Am I inside of the Do-Not-Use Advisory Area? Visit the Water Advisory Address and Owner Name Locator for an interactive map of water advisories from the Department of Water Supply (DWS)

AND 

Access DWS water sampling data directly on the map viewer.  Zoom in and click on point icons to see lab reports from VOC tests conducted by the County at hydrants and water meters throughout the burn zones.

Maui Drinking Water FAQs

WRRC Maui Drinking-Water Updates

Disinfection Byproducts: What are they and why are we seeing them in our results?

In the US every water utility uses some form of disinfection to keep the water safe. Most use chlorine and more than 20% also use chloramine, a disinfectant that is formed by adding ammonia to chlorine. While neither of these…

FAQ: Water Quality Units and Acronyms Explained

What is the difference between micrograms (μg/L) and milligrams (mg/L)? Microgram per liter (μg/L) is a unit of concentration that measures the amount of a substance dissolved in a given volume of water (1 liter). A microgram is equivalent to…

Are there private labs where I can get my own VOC/SVOC water tests?

Yes there are, though because they are private, generally for-profit companies we can not recommend specific labs and they will likely have variable costs, sample processing times, and lists of services. Typical costs range from $100-$200 for a VOC test…

My home never lost water pressure, is my water safe?

Even if the pipes in your home were continually pressurized, portions of the water systems affected by the advisories lost pressure which introduces the possibility that contamination from other properties could have entered the system thereby introducing contamination into the…

Is water within the advisory area safe for watering plants?

Maui DWS consulted with agricultural specialists and determined that to the best of their knowledge, watering plants should be OK. This is based on the logic that VOC’s, which are the primary contamination type of concern, should dissipate into the…

Why does the advisory say filters will not work to remove wildfire related contamination?

Every water filter is engineered to certain specifications. These specifications include things like normal operating flow rate and the expected concentrations of contaminants entering the filter. If the concentration of contaminants entering the filter exceeds the specifications, the filter may…

How long will the advisory last? 

Maui DWS has to be absolutely sure that the water is safe to drink before lifting the Do-Not-Use advisories. They began testing as soon as possible and will likely need to test each of their sampling locations multiple times before…

Can UH Mānoa and Maui College test for these contaminants? 

Yes, the University of Hawaiʻi Water Resources Research Center (UH-WRRC) is partnering with teams at UH Maui College to set up a home tap-water sampling program, which will provide free non-regulatory water quality testing to residents in affected areas. Please…

Is the county and state testing for these contaminants? 

Yes, the Department of Water Supply (DWS) in conjunction with the Hawaiʻi Department of Health is conducting regulatory testing to understand if the water system is safe or not. However, this process takes time. We appreciate your patience as we…

What are the main contaminants to worry about, and can I test for them myself?  

The most reliable data we have comes from research carried out on similar major urban-wildfire incidents, like the Camp Fire in California. In previous studies of wildfires, the harmful substances detected in water systems typically belong to two groups: Volatile…

Is my water safe? Our findings so farOctober 23rd, 2023

I’ll start by saying that out of the couple hundreds of samples we have taken in Kula and Lahaina neighborhoods thus far, we have only found clear signs of wildfire related contamination in a few fringe cases. This result matches what Maui DWS is finding as well, which supports their decision to begin lifting the do-not-use advisories in some areas.
Although we have not been finding many fire related VOCs in our tap water samples, we have been finding a group of chemicals known as disinfection by-products, specifically Trihalomethanes (THMs). Water utilities must provide safe drinking water to customers and this is achieved nearly everywhere in the country by using chlorination to kill waterborne pathogens that can make us sick. When chlorine or chloramines interact with organic matter, they react to form unwanted and generally unhealthy chemicals that remain at detectable levels in tap water. We explain this in greater detail in our FAQ about THMs. While the presence of THMs is expected in any public water system, these chemicals can have negative health effects at high enough concentrations.
For the most part, the levels of THMs we’re seeing in Kula and Lahaina are below the regulatory action level of 80 ppb for total THMs. However, in many of our samples the concentrations are actually pretty close to the limit, and we have seen some go above. While levels of total THMs below the 80 ppb standard are not considered to be a health or safety issue by HI DOH and Maui DWS, guidance from other states and references suggest that these lower levels could be of concern.
The good news is that we aren’t finding levels of any VOCs that would overwhelm the capacity of standard activated carbon water filters. There are many filters out there and while we aren’t in the business of recommending brands, we are testing the effectiveness of people’s filters when we can. We will continue to test tap water, filtered and unfiltered, and are happy to  take multiple samples for those who may be interested. If you would like a another sample please sign up on our requests form again and indicate you are seeking a repeat sample.

New Sample Results, and Public Release of All Results So FarSeptember 31st, 2023

It’s been a minute, but we finally have results from our latest batch of samples.  Please follow this LINK to see color-coded printouts of all our sample results from Kula, and please follow this LINK to see results from Lahaina. Each printout lists the street where the sample was taken and the sampling date. We continue to work on improving the way we share data on this site, but for now we want to make all of our sample results available for viewing, even if it’s not the most user friendly way. The results from these 14 samples look very similar to the results from previous batches.
Results Summary: We have only found a single location that showed signs of fire related contamination, and this was at a house in Kula that sustained fire damage and was already disconnected from the water system. Otherwise, the VOCs we are seeing are primarily related to chlorine disinfection. These compounds are called disinfection byproducts, and the specific ones we are seeing are within a group called trihalomethanes (THMs). Please see this FAQ for more information on THMs.
Overall, what we have seen so far is good news, and while we and the county still do not have enough data to confidently say that the system is free from contamination, each clean sample we find is a step in the right direction.
It should be noted that the levels of THM’s we are seeing in some samples are higher then health guidelines proposed by the MN Department of Health. (Link) However, we have not found levels of THMs higher than the regulatory limits set by the HI Department of Health and US EPA (link)

Upcountry Community Meeting Wednesday September 20th at 6 p.m. in Pukalani.September 19th, 2023

County Representatives will be holding an Upcountry Community Meeting at 6 p.m on Wednesday September 20. The meeting will be held at the Mayor Hannibal Tavares Community Center in Pukalani. Akaku will air the meeting live and provide a live stream on their website, akaku.org/watch as well as via the Maui Stream app.  The Department of Water Supply along with other local and federal agencies will speak on topics related to debris removal and the Unsafe Water Advisory.  (Reposted from Councilmember Yuki Lei Sugimura’s email update as of 9-19-23)

Unsafe Water Advisory Lifted for Much of KulaSeptember 12th, 2023

As of September 12, the Unsafe Water Advisory has been lifted for all residents in Kula Zone 1. Lahaina and Kula Zones 2 to Zone 5 remain under the Unsafe Water Advisory. Please see the updated interactive map here, to check what Zone your home or business is in. Zones 2, 3, 4, and 5 are neighborhoods that are much closer to the areas where structures burned. The Department of Water Supply’s press release from this evening details the next steps. Here’s the link to the Press Release.

We at WRRC will continue to offer free water testing for as long as we can, even after the advisories are lifted.

(Reposted from Councilmember Yuki Lei Sugimura’s email updates)

DWS Director Discusses Timeline on Lifting AdvisorySeptember 11th, 2023

Reporters from Hawaii News Now interviewed DWS director John Stufflebean on Friday the 8th of September, and in their published article it was reported he estimates the advisory may be lifted for 85% of Kula within a week. Other areas closer to the burn may take longer. The HNN article can be viewed HERE.  Please also note that we at WRRC will continue to offer free water testing for as long as we can, even after the advisories are lifted.

New WRRC Test Results: No Concerning Detections So FarSeptember 8th, 2023

We have analyzed our second batch of samples from locations on Kulalani Dr., Leihulu Wy., and Ainakula Rd. in Kula, and on Lilia St. and Kuilua St. in Lahaina. Overall the news is good. We did not find levels of VOCs in excess of any regulatory health standards. We did detect byproducts from chlorination at levels that did not exceed regulatory health standards, but do in a few cases approach health standards documented by the Minnesota Department of Health. We will release more detailed results once we share data with individual homeowners and secure their consent for release.

We Are Hiring! 

for a full time Geospatial Research Scientist position

For details please see job add at this LINK 

We are seeking a candidate with GIS and coding experience who holds an
M.S. or equivalent.  Maui based preferred but remote work is OK.  

This is a collaborative initiative between the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa WRRC in partnership with the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College, PacIOOS, and the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources

 

wrrc logo

 

 

Funding for this project was provided by UH Mānoa, Ulupono Initiative, the National Science Foundation and NOAA

Ulupono Initiative